Tibor Kalman


1949, Budapest, Hungary
1999, San Juan, Puerto Rico


Tibor Kalman viewed graphic design as a means to an end. Although he appreciated aesthetics, he believed that design was useless if it did not support a message leading to social action.

A founding editor of Colors, the Benetton-sponsored magazine focusing on multiculturalism, Kalman's own sense of global awareness developed at an early age. Born in Budapest, his family fled Hungary for New York in 1956 following the Soviet invasion. Kalman enrolled for one year in New York University's journalism program before dropping out to work in the creative department of a bookstore that eventually became Barnes & Noble.

Kalman founded his own design firm, M&Co, in 1979; M was Kalman's nickname for his wife, Maira, an author and illustrator who was his most enduring and profound collaborator. By the mid-1980s he had transformed a firm that once "sold design by the pound" for banks and department stores into a soapbox for his social mission.

In 1990, Kalman moved to Rome to found Colors. Health problems forced him to return to the U.S. with his family in 1995.

Works in the Collection

Please note that artwork locations are subject to change, and not all works are on view at all times. If you are planning a visit to SFMOMA to see a specific work of art, we suggest you contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to confirm it will be on view.

Only a portion of SFMOMA's collection is currently online, and the information presented here is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify collection holdings and artwork information. If you are interested in receiving a high resolution image of an artwork for educational, scholarly, or publication purposes, please contact us at copyright@sfmoma.org.

This resource is for educational use and its contents may not be reproduced without permission. Please review our Terms of Use for more information.